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How to Care for Bottle Baby Goat Kids

A guide on how to raise an orphaned goat kid or one that is neglected by its mother. Bottle feeding information for goats. How to feed a bummer kid

Bottle feeding kids (baby goats) is hard work, this is not something a busy farmer does for fun, although sometimes 4H kids will, or people with “petting zoos”. Knowing what to do will hopefully make the process easier. Ideally  you may want to have family members take turns caring for the bottle kids, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed.

Sometimes a doe (female adult goat, also called a nanny) will be overwhelmed with her kids, and after a few days, one or more of them will start to look poorly, it will standing hunched and will not look like it is thriving.  Other times the mother goat dies, leaving orphaned kids. These youngsters are often called “bottle babies” or “bummers”.  Some times the kids are removed from a dairy goat so the farmer has more milk for himself.

If a doe simply is not producing enough milk, but not being aggressive against her kid(s), you need to have your veterinarian check her for problems such as mastitis or other problems, sometimes the vet can give her a shot to help her produce milk.  If the doe is feeding one kid but not the other, you can leave the neglected kid with her and feed it yourself throughout the day. If the nanny is being mean to the kid, you will need to treat the kid like an orphan and remove it altogether.

If the doe has died and the kid is a newborn, dry it off and keep it warm. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially new baby goats, need to be kept warm, you can leave them in a small pen in your barn, but will be making several trips out so this may be inconvenient.

Grafting

With luck, you may have success grafting the kid onto another doe, this is something to try if another doe has given birth and lost the kid, or had only a single. Never give a young doe more than two kids to care for. You can can try to graft a kid by putting the kid in the pen with the mom, if she is an exceptionally good mom she will accept it with only a small hesitation. These moms are very hard to come by. More often a mother will have to be held and forced to allow the new kid to drink, never leave them alone until you have determined if she will care for the new one or not. Very often they will push the strange new lamb away.  See the information about Colostrum in “Bottle Feeding” below.

Having another doe raise the orphan is much easier than you doing it and will also save you a lot of expense on milk. The other advantage is that the youngster knows that it is a goat. It will fit into the herd well.  However, it is not easily done, so very likely you will be bottle feeding the kid.

Bottle Feeding Kids

bottle feeding a goat kid

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/485771161/  A little more tilt to the bottle is needed.

The first and most important thing is to ensure your kid gets Colostrum, this is the mothers first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and it is very important that the kid gets some within the first 18 hours following birth. This does not have to be their first drink, but it is important that they get it.

Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several does, you might want to purchase Colostrum before hand and store it. Colostrum may be purchased from a Veterinarian, Veterinarian Supply store, or a Livestock Feed store. It may come frozen or powdered. In an emergency powdered calf colostrum is acceptable for use. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kids mouth with a syringe. Be careful, if you go too fast you risk forcing it into their lungs.

For regular feedings you will have to purchase proper kid/goat starter milk formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags, you can purchase it at your Livestock Feed store. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable at all stores in your area get lamb, or calf milk, replacer. You will need to also buy bottles and nipples from your Livestock Feed store. It is good to get extra in case they bite the nipple off when they get older.  I like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles. If you don't have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, and by adding a tiny bit of molasses it will give the lamb extra energy. 

*Always wash the bottles and nipples between feedings.

Bottle feeding can be difficult at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you.  Kids naturally look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your fingers to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When you use the plastic pop bottles as bottles, you can gently squeeze some milk into the youngsters mouth if it is too weak, or confused, to suck. After a few days the kid will understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing. If you have multiple kids you will eventually want to get a system where you can put the bottle and the kid can drink on its own.

Bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight per day. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. Then to make your life easier, the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings 3-4 hours apart throughout the day for the first week.   In most cases you can fill a bottle and let the kid drink as much as it wants.  There is little risk of them drinking too much, the problems start when they do not drink enough.

The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.  In most rural areas tap warm tap water is fine as this is the water the livestock will normally be drinking at the waterers. 

As your kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week your kid can be fed every 5-6 hours. You can reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as you reduce the number of feedings you need to increase the feed per feeding.

Always follow directions for mixing the formula as indicated on the bag.  Every brand is different so if you switch brands be sure to read the new mixing instructions.

General

Your kid should also have hay (or grass) after a few days of age. They normally start eating by watching their mother. You can teach your kid to eat by picking grass or hay with your hand, or by having it with other kids who are eating. Baby goats can also have kid ration feed, a crumbly product you can buy at a feed store. They wont understand that it is food so you may have to put their faces in it, or pinch some in your fingers and put it in their mouth. When introducing any new food it is best done slowly so you do not overwhelm their tummies and make them sick.

bottle feeding a baby goat

http://www.flickr.com/photos/4x4jeepchick/398307685/  This kid is older and does not need to be held.

If your bottle baby kid was kept in the house it is important to get it out with the other goats as soon as possible, especially if it is a single. You can keep it in a pen with some of the more gentle goats and their kids.

Use restraint when bottle feeding young billies (male kids), if they are not wethered (neutered) they can become “bullies” as they get older. Do not allow a billy bottle baby to think is is anything other than a goat. Resist the urge to pat or cuddle them, and do not offer them treats from your hand.

Raising orphaned goats is a lot of work, but rewarding if you do it right. If you are not prepared for all the expense and time involved you are best to try to sell your kid or give it away to somebody who is better prepared.

*Please note the black and white animal being bottle fed in the thumbnail photo is a lamb, not a goat kid*

Other Livestock Related Links

How to Care for Bottle Baby Lambs

How to Become a Sheep Breeder and Producer

Four Novelty Farm Animals

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Comments (14)

Oh... how cute. I know it is a job. My mom raises cows... sometimes she has to bottle feed a calf.. I've helped her before.. she would mix up the formula and then send me out to feed them. Luckily, she only had one or two at a time to feed like that.. they are so cute.

fell in love

Charlotte

I am bottle feeding twin baby goat kids, how long before I can wean them? They are now two weeks old, going on three. I bottle feed them four times a day, (was 5 before they turned two weeks old). Any insight you can give will be most welcome!

This is a well-written article.

to Charlotte Bottle feeding is a long term thing. By four weeks of age you can feed 2x a day but will need to be feeding more each time - really they should be bottle fed until at least 2 months of age and ONLY then if they are really eating well and thriving 3 months of age is preferrable!

Charlotte

Thank you for getting back to me. Both are doing well right now on the bottle, they are in a cage inside our home because we've had such extremely cold weather with so much snow. i have under pads that I put down for them and my husband brings hay also, so right now they are fed and warm. However, I don't know how much longer I can keep them in the house, with the weather being so cold, it is the only option at this time. I am feeding the 4 times a day also and they are finally letting me sleep through the night. Any additional input will be most certainly appreciasted. Again, thank you so very much.

to Charlotte Dont let them get too use to being warm, Its fine to warm them up initially, but if they are indoors and not suffering from chills, they certainly will not need heat pads under them. This will make it harder for them to get use to the outdoors. Do you have a barn? The barn will cut the windchill which can make a huge difference, but I worry as they have been so use to indoor house warmth. Perhaps a half way - garage? I know what you mean about cold, last week it was -32C where I am (AB, Canada) and I have young lambs! Work on getting them use to cooler temps - keep them in the coolest part of your home if you must. As you have 2 they will cuddle!

Charlotte

Thanks for the input. The underpads are the type used for bedfast patients who are incontinent and they are not heated. I line the cage with them and throw them in the garbage when soiled, they are great for all kinds of mishaps such as puppy training. The laundry room doesn't have a heating vent and is cool, not real warm but not as cold as outside. Our barn is too far away for me to get there to feed them on the bottle. They are almost three weeks old, will be tomorrow, and I am feeding 4 to 5 times a day, the last feeding is usually around 11:00 p.m. and dthey let me sleep until 6:00 a.m. I give them as much as they can drink from the bottle and keep fresh goat feed in there for them to munch on also we have hay that my husband brings in. Riight now they seem to be thriving, we have sheep also, we riase barbados, barbados black belly and mouflon, all hair sheep. So far we've lost 4 goats, 3 kids, one nanny, and 3 sheep (lambs) this has been a really hard winter.. Lots of snow, but temps for us have been in the lower teens.farenheirght. A few times we were below 0 degrees F, it didn't last long and I am glad. If it geets warmer during the da, I will start taking them outside on short trips, but either it has been snowing or raining and I don't want them to catch pneumonia, so I just hope and pray I am doing the right thing here.

to Charlotte. I have only lost one lamb so far, the first one born as a matter of fact, mom had three and failed to clean all of their airways. I also have barbados, and Katahdins, the hair sheep certainly are more of a worry in the colder temps, sounds like you have lots more than I (I only have 9 ewes). Hopefully the weather will improve and your critters will do better. I know what you mean about the feedings 3 trips to the barn per day isnt so bad, but 4-5 is too much!

Charlotte

Brenda, sorry it took so long to get back to you. Today the twins were 4 weeks old, and the temp was 64 degrees F. I moved them into our chicken coop in back of our house They will have fresh hay, and there is a gate to keep them away from all the sheep until they get used to being outside. I still am going out there to feed them 4 times a day, but this will be their first night without us, I miss them but this is best for them. We now have 12 lambs and 6 kids. We have 30 adult sheep and I'm not sure how many adult goats. I am not familiar with Katahdins, hair sheep (the Babados) look like deer. Our barn is not close to our house, it is down the road from where we live. So the chicken coop will have to do for now.

wow you are LOTS warmer than I am, we have been even below 0 F! I am glad they are fine even though its loads of work. We have 14 lambs and 2 ewes left to lamb. I am sure yours will grow up fine - good luck!

Ricky

my friend is raiseing baby goats and is giving my 12 year old daughter a baby for her birthday and it has to be bottle fed a little nervous but i hope it will turn out okay she is so happy

I thoroughly rely on your expertise in all areas of animal husbandry.This has been a most enjoyable read only because I am not doing that actual work of bottle feeding. I have done that for other animals and it is hard work.

Hello ~ I have a kid that I have kept in the house by herself you 4 months. About 2 weeks ago ~ I changed from milk to water in the bottle. Now I can not get her to drink from a bucket. She cries for a bottle everytime she sees anyone and will drink over a 30 oz at a time. I would like to move her to the farm and put her with her twin. Seperate the mothers from the babies ~ so they are not mean to her. However, I live 30 miles from the farm and do not get out there everyday. Will she thirst to death or learn to drink from a bucket from the other goats?  I have spent alot of time, money and effort into keeping her alive and she is such a sweet baby... I just can not get her to drink from a bucket...  I have also stuck her nose in it and she licks it off her nose...  It is hard to make her go without and see if she will start drinking from the bucket because the bellaring gets to be too much..Thank you for your help.... Brenda 

Hello brenda.

At four months of age your kid does not need milk, but she should be drinking from a bucket, Most learn to drink water from a bucket even at a week of age and will drink water in addition to their milk.

I know how demanding and fussy bottle babies can be though, and yes it is a worry. Sometimes if you add molasses to the water that encourages them to drink, but mostly she will also learn to drink from the bucket (or trough) by watching the other kids, so really I would not worry about it too much.  If they get dehydrated they get thin just in front of their hips and you can pinch their skin also to check - if the skin stays in a pinched tent shape it means they are not drinking, but still I would suggest giving her time with the others to learn how to be a goat and drink the water.  I am sure she is just trying to trick you.  Good luck.

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